Archives for May 2016

‘Hamilton’ Producers Aren’t Discriminating — They’re More Honest Than Hollywood

A month ago, Workforce employment law columnist and blogger Jon Hyman wrote in his “Practical Employer” blog that the producers for Broadway’s “Hamilton” could not claim race as a “bona fide occupational qualification” when sending a casting call out for nonwhite actors. He was right that they can’t claim race as a BFOQ, but he neglected the reason they should be praised, not condemned, for their practice.

I read the post after seeing the show at Richard Rodgers Theater in New York. Hyman admitted in his first paragraph that he doesn’t get the show or why it’s the “greatest thing to come to Broadway in the last few decades,” but I can declare right now: I’m a Hamilhead and have been since the album dropped last September. I’m also a theater geek, so when I say it really is the greatest thing to come to Broadway in the last few decades, I recognize that iconic musicals like “Rent,” “Avenue Q,” “Wicked”and “Hamilton”writer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s own “In the Heights” are included in that timeframe.

But don’t take my word for it — just look at the show’s record-breaking 16 Tony nominations.

Although I’m consciously biased, my “Hamilton” love is based on the very practice for which it’s being condemned. Miranda explained in a CBS Sunday Morning interview: It’s “the story of America ‘then’ told by America ‘now.’ It looks like America now.”

As a member of America “now,” I’m all in favor of seeing our population’s diversity echoed on the stage.

The lawyer who originally critiqued the show’s requirements, Randolph McLaughlin, said, “What if they put an ad out that said, ‘Whites only need apply? Why, African-Americans, Latinos, Asians would be outraged.’ ”

But show business has always said “Whites only need apply,” just not in so many words.

In February, the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies’ 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report stated that people of color play only 8.1 percent of TV lead characters and 12.8 percent of film leads.

Even the legal precedent Hyman referred to, Ferrill v. Parker Group, Inc. (11th Cir. 1999), was a court decision that gave white actors more opportunity by prohibiting their exclusion from auditioning for African slave roles.

Hyman’s and McLaughlin’s arguments assume that the casting ad excluded white actors outright. It didn’t. It declared it was looking for nonwhite actors but never excluded white actors from auditioning.

Some of the ensemble cast I saw two weeks ago was white, as are two named characters: King George III and Samuel Seabury. They had to get the roles somehow, right?

Where the producers made their mistake was claiming race as a BFOQ instead of just handing casting critics a ticket to the show so they can see for themselves that there’s nothing illegal going on — though even the producers can’t score seats these days.

So forgive the producers’ legalese gaff, but don’t neglect the fact that they’re being more honest than whitewashed Hollywood has ever been. After all, as Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Hamilton’s rival and eventual killer (spoiler alert) Aaron Burr, said in an interview with Buzzfeed:

Theatre “is malleable. It is strong. It is sturdy. … We can make it whatever we want it to be. Kids can play adults. And old people can play young people. And black people can play white people, and Asian people can play black people. If it’s done with a thoughtfulness and a care and a reason, we can do anything.”
AUTHOR:  Kate Everson is a former Workforce associate editor. Follow Everson on Twitter at @EversonKate. You can also follow her on Google Plus.

Reprinted from WORKFORCE

How to Initiate Positive Behavior Change

There is no harder task for adults than changing our behavior. We are geniuses at avoiding change. So we continually fail at improving.

The good news is that the environment is not conducting a cloak-and-dagger operation. It’s providing constant feedback. We’re often too distracted to hear what the environment is telling us. But in those moments when we’re paying attention, the covert triggers that shape our behavior become apparent.

The not-so-good news is that it’s hard to stay alert as we move from one environment to another. Our circumstances change, and we can’t always summon the ability or motivation to manage each situation.

Basic tools such as anticipating, avoiding and adjusting to risky environments are a good place to start, but they are temporary solutions. To understand a problem, you not only have to admit there is a problem; you also have to appreciate the following option

1. Creating

Creating is the poster child of behavioral change. When we imagine ourselves behaving better, we think of it as a process of self-invention. The challenge is to do it by choice, not as a bystander.

Creating is not an option that comes automatically. If we’re satisfied with our life, we yield to inertia. If we’re dissatisfied, we may go to the other extreme.

We always have a chance to create better behavior in ourselves. All we need is the impulse to imagine a different us.

2. Preserving

Preserving sounds mundane, but it’s a real choice. It requires soul searching and discipline to refrain from abandoning it for something new and shiny and not necessarily better.

Successful people by definition are doing a lot of things correctly, so they have a lot to preserve. But they also have a baseline urge that equates steady advancement with constant improvement. When they face the choice of being good or getting even better, they opt for the latter — and risk losing some desirable qualities.

We rarely ask ourselves, “What in my life is worth keeping?” After all, preserving a valuable behavior means one less behavior we have to change.

3. Eliminating

Eliminating is our most liberating action — but we make it reluctantly. Like cleaning the attic, we never know if we’ll regret jettisoning a part of us. Maybe we’ll need it in the future.

The most significant transformational moment in my career was an act of elimination. I was in my late 30s and doing well flying around the country giving the same talk about organizational behavior. I was on a lucrative treadmill of preserving, but I needed my mentor Paul Hersey to point out the downside.

“You’re too good at what you’re doing,” Hersey told me. “You’re making too much money selling your day rate to companies.”

The real test is sacrificing something we enjoy doing that’s not harming our career, that we believe may even be working for us. Here, we may ask ourselves, “What should I eliminate?” And come up with nothing.

 4. Accepting

CEOs tend to see three of these four elements with great clarity when it applies to an organization. Creating is innovating, taking risks on new ventures, creating new profit centers within the company. Preserving is not losing sight of your core business. Eliminating is shutting down or selling off the businesses that no longer fit.

Accepting is the rare bird in this aviary of change. Businesspeople can’t help equating “acceptance” with “acquiescence.” In business, we have an abundance of metrics to help achieve acceptance of a dire situation or the need for change. But our natural impulse is to think wishfully rather than realistically.

That impulse is more egregious in interpersonal relationships. Instead of metrics, we rely on impressions. We take in what we want to hear, not what we need to hear.

Accepting is most valuable when we’re powerless to make a difference. Yet our ineffectuality is the condition we are most loath to accept. It triggers our finest moments of counterproductive behavior.

Good things happen when we ask ourselves what we need to create, preserve, eliminate and accept. Discovering what really matters is a gift, not a burden. Accept it and see.


AUTHOR:  Marshall Goldsmith is an authority in helping leaders achieve positive, lasting change in behavior. He is the author of 32 books, including “Managers as Mentors,” with co-author Chip Bell.



Adobe Creates a Recruitment Process That Sticks

Adobe Systems Inc. is one of those rare Silicon Valley tech companies that has managed to stay relevant for more than 30 years. Millions of computer users enjoy Adobe products like Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Reader, helping the company grow to 14,000 employees and roughly $5 billion in revenue.

And the company is still evolving. As of 2013, all new versions of Adobe software have transitioned to the Creative Cloud, the company’s cloud-based subscription model, which freed its software engineers to implement more aggressive upgrade cycles and release new versions of products as soon as they become available.

Since then, the company has been growing rapidly, hiring roughly 1,000 new employees every quarter, said Jeff Vijungco, vice president of global talent. This rapid fire hiring has kept Vijungco on his toes, first as a head of talent acquisition, and now as the person in charge of making sure all new hires have what they need to thrive. “When you hire 4,000 people a year, ensuring their onboarding tees them up for success isn’t easy,” he said.

‘Stickiness of Hire’

Vijungco joined Adobe in 2008 as a recruiter and fully admits that his talent development credentials were pretty slim when he was offered the talent leadership role in 2013. “I led talent acquisition, not talent development,” he said. “Putting me in this role was a stretch.”

Adobe leadership disagreed. For years, Vijungco had established himself as a thorn in hiring managers’ sides because he was never willing to just start recruiting every time a manager requested a new hire.

First, they had to sit down with him and explain why they wanted to hire someone from the outside, whether there was a clear need, and why they couldn’t coach someone on their own team to fill the gap. “A lot of times, we found that it was a performance or coaching issue; if we hired someone new we would just be adding to the problem,” he said. If they insisted, Vijungco then challenged them on their hiring criteria.

Vijungco’s talent acquisition strategy is what made him attractive for the development role. When he took the position, one of his first goals was to integrate talent acquisition with talent development to create a seamless onboarding experience that set employees on a career development path from day one. He started by changing the way recruiters engage with new hires.

Recruiters are sales-oriented, and measure their success by things like time-to-fill a role,  but once the job is filled they quickly move on to the next one, Vijungco said. That created a gap between hiring and onboarding. To close it, Vijungco added a new performance metric for recruiters around “stickiness of hire.”

To ensure new hires stick around, recruiters are expected to stay with them through the first several months of employment to create a more seamless transition from candidate to productive employee. Recruiters now work directly with the human resources and talent development teams, involving them in weekly meetings to discuss short lists of candidates for key roles, what each person brings to the table, and where they may need development or coaching to fill gaps. “It gives them more context for the person once they are hired,” said Trisha Colton, senior director of executive talent search.

As soon as a candidate is selected, their recruiter works with HR and their hiring manager to create a career development plan that includes short- and long-term performance goals, development needs and a meeting plan to connect them with people they need to know to succeed in their jobs. The recruiter also shares their perspective on what the new hire will need to succeed based on the weeks they spent recruiting them.

Recruiters continue to follow up with their new hires, touching base in the first few days and then every few weeks to be sure they have what they need to do their jobs. “Our goal is to set them up for success in their first 90 days,” Colton said. “That’s the time frame when most new hires are still making up their mind about whether this is the right fit.”

The decision to make development part of the recruiters job helped to reinforce the learning culture at Adobe, and it lets new hires know they will have opportunities to grow from the start, said Liz Quinn, director of global talent development. “By day two, we are talking about their career plans and how we are going to help them succeed,” she said.

Further, Colton said it doesn’t require a lot of extra time from recruiters. It’s more about involving managers and HR in conversations that were once only held by the recruiting team.

Learning in the Cloud

Along with integrating recruiters into the talent development process, Vijungco also revamped the company’s approach to learning. Following Adobe’s strategic move to the cloud, he pulled much of the company’s leadership development content out of classrooms and put it online. Facilitators were on the road 120 days a year, teaching the company’s signature Leading@Adobe course to 20-30 managers at a time — if they all showed up. “We were hitting about 5 percent of our population. That was a problem,” Vijungco said.

Instead of implementing a lot of self-paced learning, the team used Adobe Connect — the company’s mobile Web conferencing software — to create a series of virtual labs and online classroom courses that employees could take from their offices. The content and the trainers were the same, but the reach and impact was much greater.

At first, the facilitators thought teaching in a virtual environment wouldn’t be that different from teaching a course online. Not true, said Justin Mass, director of digital learning. Facilitators had to learn how to adjust lighting, queue videos and manage chat rooms all while they are on the air. It required a significant behavior change.

To ease them into the new learning environment, Mass created a digital facilitator boot camp to ramp up their skills. The development team also provided employees with access to a library of online training modules on a variety of topics from and Harvard ManageMentor, and business book summaries from getAbstract.

Usage Data Soars

Once the digital content was in place, the learning and development team worked with the information technology department to develop a reporting tool to track content usage rates and create dashboards to highlight results. They report usage rates to leadership, identify trends in content usage that might suggest skill gaps, and help managers understand what learning their people are accessing and who their biggest users are. “Moving to digital forced us to develop a real data strategy,” Mass said.

That data tracking strategy enabled Mass’ team to compile statistics that demonstrate impressive uptake in the new virtual content. In 2015, more than 8,000 employees completed the digital Leading@Adobe course — up from just 500 managers in 2013. More than 2,800 new hires attended the digital new hire orientation via Adobe Connect. The company has seen “stickiness” of new hires rise to almost 100 percent, up nearly 10 points from five years ago, Vijungco said.

The development team is now working with IT to link content usage data with other HR data so they can further parse results by geography, title, manager and other demographics. “It is just one more way the talent development role at Adobe has shifted,” Quinn said. “Now we act more like consultants to the business.”

For companies interested in following in Adobe’s path, Quinn said to “deconstruct so you can reconstruct. The opportunity to learn and grow is a promise we make to all our employees.” Integrating recruiting with development and moving learning is helping the company fulfill that promise on a much grander scale.

AUTHOR:  Sarah Fister Gale is a writer based in Chicago.


Research Spotlight: Managing Organizational Knowledge

In The eLearning Guild’s newest white paper, Managing Organizational Knowledge: Capturing, Sharing, and Using Collective Knowledge to Drive Learning and Productivity, authors Marc Rosenberg and Steve Foreman begin by asserting that “Organizational knowledge is the lifeblood of any business, government agency, military unit, nonprofit, educational institution, etc. Too often, however, that knowledge is hidden, buried, lost, out of date, or simply undiscovered. Managing organizational knowledge can be the difference between enterprise success and failure.”

A fresh look at knowledge management

The concept of knowledge management (KM), defined as “a collection of best practices and technologies that provides ways to capture, use, and share information” is not new, and for some it has a negative legacy. But the challenges that call for a KM solution have not gone away; in fact, they have intensified. So it is important to take a look at KM again, with fresh eyes.

One of the many valuable aspects of this article is this “fresh” look at what KM is (Table 1), and what it is not (Table 2). Understanding that critical difference is essential to moving forward with KM insights and solutions.



Knowledge management: a larger toolbox of options

As Rosenberg and Foreman go on to note, “KM is not just training or eLearning in another format, nor is it their replacement. Rather, it is part of a broader, multidiscipline approach that provides a larger toolbox of options that better meets today’s complex learning challenges.”

The authors provide the following essential information in this white paper:
•  KM’s potential and what it means for organizational learning
•  How to define KM and distinguish it from other training and learning approaches, including eLearning and performance support
•  Differing perspectives of KM, including “top-down” and “social” approaches
•  Key components and technologies of a typical knowledge management system (KMS)
•  KM project steps and evaluation strategies, as well as several case studies which illustrate these steps and strategies
•  KM’s future and what it means—for organizations and for learning

The KM component of a learning and performance ecosystem

KM augments training, changing its role in each organization’s overarching learning strategy. The relationship between training and KM is an essential element within the learning and performance ecosystem, as shown below in Figure 1. The KM component of the ecosystem enables people to access needed content while working. From a workers’ perspective, the goal is to successfully research a topic and get answers quickly. From an organization’s perspective, the goal is to provide easy and reliable access to information.
NOTE: As defined by our authors, a learning and performance ecosystem enhances individual and organizational effectiveness by connecting people and supporting them with a broad range of content, processes, and technologies to drive performance. For more information on this important topic, see Learning and Performance Ecosystems: Strategy, Technology, Impact, and Challenges—also by Marc Rosenberg and Steve Foreman—for more about learning and performance ecosystems.
Source: The eLearning Guild Research, 2016.

Figure 1: KM within a learning and performance ecosystem


Knowledge management: future implications

Rosenberg and Foreman conclude this important white paper by stressing that “the implications of the growing use of KM by the learning and development (L&D) organization will be profound. Expanding the focus and changing the culture of those charged with providing L&D leadership is key. Shifting the paradigms of more traditional training departments will be more important to success than any particular technology or process.”

Organizational knowledge needs assessment

One final point: You can get actively involved with these KM principles and insights by using the Organizational Knowledge Needs Assessment in the white paper. The assessment will help you determine which of the 14 problematic telltale signs that it describes is also present in your organization. If you can identify more than one of these signs, the authors recommend that you discuss the situation with your stakeholders and determine the most critical challenge(s). The assessment process and findings will help you prioritize and focus your organization’s KM work on the areas of greatest urgency and payoff.



Cancer ‘Complex and Intimidating’ for Benefit Professionals

The fact that cancer costs are higher than ever is reason enough for employers to be concerned, but new research is giving them another reason to worry: They may not be doing enough for employees suffering from the disease.

Employers are concerned about the high cost of cancer care, but they’re equally concerned about making sure employees and family members diagnosed with cancer are receiving top-quality care, says a new report from Northeast Business Group on Health.

The group recently released a report identifying key things benefits professionals can be doing to address both these concerns. The information follows workshops, interviews with plan managers, and a survey of about 20 self-insured employers.

“Cancer is complex and intimidating for benefits professionals, combining the need to contract for effective and high-quality care with the need to assist employees and beneficiaries in coping with the varied psychological and social needs surrounding a cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Jeremy Nobel, executive director of NEBGH’s Solutions Center, which conducted the work.

Cancer costs are of increasing concern to employers. They consistently rank at the top in terms of employers’ healthcare costs, despite the fact that cancer has a significantly lower prevalence among employees than conditions like diabetes, hypertension and musculoskeletal disorders.

Though cancer only impacts only 1-2% of employees, Nobel explains, cancer costs are currently 12-13% of premiums. They are growing at 15% annually — roughly twice the pace of general healthcare. Much of that growth is driven by roughly 25% cost increases in specialty pharma meds used in cancer treatment.

”This has driven employer concern to heightened levels as they struggle to make sense of this cost acceleration and search for ways it can best be addressed without impairing the quality of care available for beneficiaries,” Nobel says.

“On par with employers’ concern about cost — and in many cases even topping it — is employers’ worry and uncertainty about the quality of cancer care that employees and dependents receive,” the report says.

But despite the concerns over cancer, the report indicates, not enough is being done to address the issues.

Less than half of survey respondents said they have a network of high-performing oncology providers in place, and results also show there are variations and gaps in the non-clinical support services offered, such as treatment navigation, emotional counseling and financial planning services.

And while 74% of employers offer access to support for treatment questions and related illnesses, just 37% offer financial support services specific to cancer, such as financial planning. And nearly half do not offer second opinion services outside of their health plan.

Another gap, Nobel says, is the “lack of accessible, organized and systematic communications efforts” directed at employees.

Survey results reveal that 68% of employers don’t have accessible, organized, and systematic communications efforts for cancer-related benefits. Less than one-third provide cancer-related trainings and resources for supervisors, managers and co-workers.

“It’s not that employers are falling short by being inattentive or uncaring; it’s more that the intrinsic complexity and challenges associated with managing cancer and its related concerns are accelerating, requiring new and more comprehensive strategies and approaches,” Nobel says.

Among the actionable steps NEBGH recommends is that employers should compare current benefits, programs and policies with those offered by other employers and try to benefit from group purchasing of cancer-related services.

“The big takeaway is that there are things employers can be doing in managing cancer-related care, costs and consequences, and that in doing so they improve the health and well-being of beneficiaries as well as the bottom line,” Nobel says.



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